Editorial: Go on, take a bus today
New bus routes will run in Timaru from today.
They signify the first such changes in 20 years and come after much community consultation.
The main changes? The introduction of an orbiter route that links the city's main public destinations such as Aorangi Park, CBay and the hospital, and a reduction in Saturday services.
The new routes won't suit everyone but they look like they cover the city pretty well. And it's hard to argue about the reduction on Saturdays.
There will still be a surprising 22 different journeys of the orbiter route covered by two buses. Perhaps an option could have been less frequency on that route, with one of the buses covering the other three routes, but no doubt that was considered.
In recent weeks, the discussion around the changes has focused on the placement of some of the new bus stops ... over people's driveways.
The kneejerk reaction was that this was daft, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense.
It leaves more parking spots on the street and the times the bus and homeowner will compete for the same spot will be minimal. And, hey, imagine if you were a regular bus user. How convenient.
The trouble is, not enough are regular bus users, and the danger is if we don't start using them more, further cutbacks could follow.
Sure, there is a community service aspect, a social responsibility even, but the fares cover only about a quarter of running costs.
Around 675 people a day use the buses but when you take schoolchildren out of the equation that's not a lot.
Because Timaru isn't large, and congestion and parking aren't issues, we're all more inclined to just take the car wherever it is we want to go without giving the bus a thought but, with petrol prices hitting a new high, perhaps we should.
And there's no better time than today or tomorrow to break those habits. Why? Because on the new orbiter link the fares for the next two days are attractive. Like, free.
The Timaru Herald